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LECLAIR’S WWE ELIMINATION CHAMBER 2023 REPORT
FEBRUARY 18, 2023
MONTREAL, QB AT BELL CENTRE
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK (U.S.), WWE NETWORK (Int.)
Announcers: Michael Cole & Corey Graves
-The opening video packages interspersed footage hyping the Chamber matches and Brock Lesnar vs. Bobby Lashley, before transitioning to solo promotion for Roman Reigns vs. Sami Zayn.
-The show opened on a rafters shot pointed at the WrestleMania sign hanging high above the balcony. Michael Cole welcomed the audience to Montreal as the camera swept past the Chamber structure and toward the announcers desk. Cole mentioned the history of major events on Montreal, most notably the screw job at Survivor Series 1997. He said the city hopes the results are different tonight.
-Samantha Irvin explained the rules for the women’s Elimination Chamber match as the structure continued to lower down toward the ring.
Asuka entered first, to a massive ovation from the crowd. She entered the northeast pod. Carmella followed. Corey Graves said it may come as a shock, but she’s his pick to win. Carmella taunted Asuka through the plexiglass window. She stepped into the northwest pod. Raquel Rodriguez entered third. Graves said he also can’t bet against her. He wondered if tonight could be her first step to becoming a megastar.
Rodriguez passed by both Carmella and Asuka, posing for the crowd and entering the the southwestern pod. Nikki Cross headed to the ring next. She stared down each of the other three women already in their respective pods. Carmella wouldn’t look at her. Nikki pounded her chest before entering the southeastern pod. Cole said the final two women will start the match, noting that there have been multiple winners from both entry point.
Natalya headed to the ring, receiving a strong ovation from her home nation. She leaned into a Canadian flag being held up by a fan at ringside, wrapping herself in it. Cole said that Nattie is rejuvenated and ready. Natalya stared down each of her opponents before stepping through the ropes. Liv Morgan was the final woman to enter, receiving a strong reaction. Cole talked about Morgan’s run in the women’s Royal Rumble match.
(1) ASUKA vs. CARMELLA vs. RAQUEL RODRIGUEZ vs. NIKKI CROSS vs. NATALYA vs. LIV MORGAN – Elimination Chamber match to determine the challenger for the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania
Liv Morgan and Natalya circled one another as the bell rang. Michael Cole said a new competitor would enter “every few minutes.” Nattie hit a shoulder takedown and smiled at the crowd. Morgan popped to her feet and the two traded quick roll ups for two counts. They returned to their feet and locked up. Natalya slid around the back for a waist lock. Morgan elbowed free. Nattie stumbled to the corner. The two women spilled to the outside. Morgan quickly tossed Natalya into the chain link wall repeatedly. She stomped on Natalya’s back. Nikki Cross was shown clapping from inside her pod.
Morgan tried to stick Natalya’s head through the chain wall. Natalya fought free and tossed Morgan into the plexiglass side of Cross’ pod. Cross stared at her maniacally. The crowd chanted “one more time!” Natalya obliged. Natalya lifted Morgan for a backdrop. Morgan caught her feet on the ropes and spun around, but Natalya dumped her into the chain. The crowd counted down and the first pod opened just after the 3:00 mark. It was Raquel Rodriguez.
Rodriguez went to work on Natalya, dropping her with a short-arm clothesline. She kicked Liv Morgan to the mat, then gave Nattie a waist lock take down. Raquel whipped Morgan to the corner, then tossed Natalya into her. Rodriguez got a running start for a big big splash on both women in the corner. She delivered a Fall-away Slam to Liv Morgan, and kicked Natalya over the ropes to the floor of the chamber. Raquel followed Natalya out, scooping her onto her back and slamming her against the chamber wall repeatedly. Liv tried to jump into the gray, but Rodriguez caught her and slammed them both.
All three women struggled to their feet on the outside. Natalya tossed Morgan through the ropes and set her up for a Sharpshooter. She tried to settle for a Boston Crab instead, but Morgan countered it into a roll up for two. Morgan went for a Code Red off the middle rope, but Raquel caught her out of the air. Morgan still managed to pull her down into double knees just as the crowd began to count down again. Nikki Cross’ pod opened just before the 7:00 mark.
Nikki Cross cornered all three women and hit rapid fire running splashes. She dumped Rodriguez to the outside, then tossed Natalya to join her. Morgan caught Cross with a pump kick. She tried to follow it up with a step-up enziguri, but Cross caught her leg and tossed her out with the rest of the women. Cross shook the chamber wall in excitement. She gave Morgan a slingshot into the plexiglass pod wall. Cross turned her focus to Raquel Rodriguez. She smashed her face against the plexiglass of Carmella’s pod. Carmella taunted her from safety.
Cross climbed to the top of Carmella’s pod and finally removed her ring jacket, slamming it on the steel roof. She dove off the top of it, taking out Rodriguez, Natalya, and Morgan. Natalya and Morgan rolled into the ring. Nikki waved to someone in the crowd as she took a breather against the steel. The clock counted down again, releasing Carmella at around 10:15. She quickly covered Liv Morgan for a two count, then Natalya for another near fall. Carmella went and slammed on Asuka’s pod. “You think I’m scared of you?!” she yelled.
Carmella didn’t notice Nikki Cross sneaking up behind her. Carmella ran back into her own pod and pulled the door shut. Cross continued to stalk her. Rodriguez returned, scooping Nikki up and driving her right through the plexiglass wall. Carmella went on the run again, hiding in an opposide pod. During the replay, Rodriguez pinned and eliminated Nikki Cross at 11:30. Cole apologized for missing it.
Rodriguez went to work on Natalya. She set her up on the top rope and the two began to trade body shots. Nattie slipped off the turnbuckle into Powerbomb position, but Raquel held on. Natalya slipped to the outside. Liv Morgan was waiting on top of Asuka’s pod. She leapt and caught Rodriguez with Code Red. Carmella snuck in to steal a cover, but Raquel managed to kick out. The clock ran down for the final time, unleashing Asuka at the 13:30 mark. The crowd popped big. “Asuka’s gonna kill you!” they chanted as she gave chase on Carmella.
Asuka cornered Carmella against a pod, but Carmella saved herself by ducking a head kick. Asuka connected with the pod and had to limp back in the ring. she shrugged it off and delivered a German Suplex. Asuka rose to meet Rodriguez face to face. The crowd booed Raquel heavily. Asuka climbed the body of Raquel and applied a modified Octopus Stretch, trying to bring Raquel to the mat. Rodriguez held on. Asuka slid down the back and kicked Raquel into the turnbuckle. Asuka turn around and ate a big kick from Liv Morgan cover a cover and two count.
Liv Morgan returned, she shot Natalya toward the ropes and stepped up for Oblivion. Carmella appeared out of nowhere and kicked Liv in the face. Natalya capitalized, turned Morgan over into the Sharpshooter. Morgan fought valiantly, trying to escape. Natalya dragged her back to center. Morgan wouldn’t quit. Asuka returned and applied the Asuka Lock on Morgan. Liv passed out with both submissions simultaneously applied at 16:50.
Natalya and Asuka circled one another. Carmella hit the ring and surprised Natalya with a kick to the face. She covered her for a three count at 17:40. Three women remained. Raquel Rodriguez rejoined the fray. Asuka and Carmella took turns kicking Raquel in the head. Rodriguez finally collapsed. Carmella and Asuka covered her at the same time and scored a three count at 18:45. Carmella kicked Asuka in the head and folded her up for a near fall.
“I’m going to WrestleMania!” Carmella yelled. She and Asuka traded quick roll ups for two counts. Asuka rolled through one and straight into the Asuka Lock. Carmella screamed and tapped out almost immediately.
WINNER: Asuka in 19:37
(LeClair’s Analysis: Recent reporting indicated that WWE views Asuka as a heel internally. I’m not sure if that’s a wise assumption, given the reactions she’s been receiving since her return. Asuka was very clearly the most over woman in this bunch, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if audiences sided with her against Bianca Belair. WWE was wise to place this as the opener, as it benefited greatly from a hot crowd. I didn’t care for the round-the-ring carousel each woman partook in before entering her respective pod, but I at least admired the commitment to character each showed while doing it. Raquel Rodriguez, perhaps the dark horse favorite, was given plenty of time for dominant power moves. Generally speaking, I thought she came off about as well as she could, though getting booed heavily when matched up against Asuka should send a clear message that the crowd is not quite ready for her yet, no pun intended.
Liv Morgan has sort of become the division’s “iron woman”, and I think the crowd has come to expect and appreciate that. Similarly to last month’s Rumble match, Morgan started the bout and fought valiantly throughout. She was protected to a certain extent by the pass out finish, though I do think WWE has relied on that too frequently. Additionally, I’d have avoided a pass out finish to those two holds, instead saving something like that for when breathing is actually restricted. The action was fast-paced and entertaining throughout, though the Chamber match hardly feels like the dangerous structure it once did. You can’t help but kind of laugh at the recycled plexiglass wall spots every year – they don’t look inherently painful, and the sound of the plexiglass just kind of folding under the weight of wrestlers sounds less like a car crash and more like a toy breaking. I’m all about making the action safer, but it’s hard to to reconcile the stark contrast between the way the announcers sell the structure and how polished it physically appears and sounds. Still, the women worked incredibly hard and delivered a satisfying, straightforward bout. I especially appreciated Asuka being booked dominantly heading into the match, and then getting a strong, clean win in the end.)
After and extended break, Cole tossed to a video package for Brock Lesnar vs. Bobby Lashley.
-Straight out of the video, Bobby Lashley entered to his usual fireworks display. He still slapped hands with fans at ringside, then played to the crowd as Mike Rome introduced him. Cole asked Graves to explain the disdain between Lashley and Lesnar. Graves said it’s a battle of two alpha males over territory.
Brock Lesnar received a massive star reaction. His demeanor was decidedly “all business.” Graves noted that it’s unlike Lesnar recently to not smile. Brock circled the ring and entered it, never taking his eyes off of Lashley.
(2) BOBBY LASHLEY vs. BROCK LESNAR
Brock Lesnar charged at Bobby Lashley as soon as the bell rang. He man-handled him into the corner, then tossed him to the outside. Lesnar flexed and the crowd popped big. He went outside to retrieve Bobby. Brock tossed him back inside and followed him. Lashley sprang to life and drilled Lesnar with a Spear. He covered for a quick two count. Lashley didn’t let up. he retreated to the corner and waited for Lesnar to stand. Lashley hit a second Spear. The crowd booed.
This time, instead of covering, Lashley stalked Lesnar from behind. He tried to apply the Hurt Lock. Brock overpowered him, hoisted him onto his shoulders, and caught him with an F5. Lesnar covered for a near fall just paid 2:00. The crowd popped big for the move. Lesnar stood up, favoring his ribs. He pulled Lashley to his feet and hit him with a second F5. Lesnar hooked the leg for another near fall. “One more time!” Montreal demanded. Lesnar nodded in agreement.
Lesnar set up for a third F5. Lashley slipped down his back, hit the ropes, and caught Lesnar with a third Spear. The crowd booed loudly. “Get up!” Lashley yelled. Lesnar rose to one knee. Lashley could barely wait, pouncing into the Hurt Lock. Lashley locked it in. Brock gasped for air, but began to fade quickly. He bent over. The crowd willed him on. Lesnar returned to a full vertical base and extended his arms. Lashley didn’t relent. Lesnar kicked behind him, catching Lashley with a low blow. The referee called for the bell.
WINNER: Bobby Lashley in 4:42 by disqualification
Lesnar realized what happened. He grabbed the referee by the shirt, pulled him in and delivered an F5. He pulled Lashley to his feet and gave him another one, too. He tossed Bobby to the outside, then ripped apart the announcers desk. Lesnar gave Lashley an F5 through the announcers desk. Lesnar pulled referee Chad Patton by the leg. He gave him another F5 onto the wreckage of the desk.
(LeClair’s Analysis: Initially, I’d assumed we ere in for some sort of non-finish here to get to another match at WrestleMania. Then, Bray Wyatt insinuated that he’d be challenging the winner. With that in mind, I came into tonight assuming they’d actually be putting this feud to rest. Guess not! I don’t know if the tepid reaction to Wyatt’s call out gave WWE cold feet, and thus, a scramble to get themselves out of this match, or if this was planned all along. Regardless, it was entirely unsatisfactory. This was a typical Brock Lesnar-style main event match, with the added detraction of a non-finish. I’ve grown to dislike the finisher spamming with multiple kick outs right out of the gate, because I think the returns on the style have been pretty much fully diminished. I admit, though, the crowd ate it up until the finish. Lesnar, the babyface badass, delivering a low blow to avoid to getting choked out by a hold is completely counterproductive to his character. Furthermore, his double attack on the referee in the aftermath put Cole and Graves in a precarious position. They couldn’t fully admonish Lesnar for his actions, thus making them appear selective in their outrage and dismissive of Lesnar’s heinous act. The crowd seemed poised to turn this whole thing on the promotion until they got the big announcers table spot, but in truth, WWE deserved to hear it over this one.)
-The first film inspired WrestleMania trailer aired, featuring Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch, playing The Joker and Batman, respectively.
-The camera showed George St. Pierre and Ariel Helwani at ringside. Cole called Helwani the most “unbiased” journalist in sports, with much emphasis.
-A video package for Judgment Day vs. Edge & Beth Phoenix aired.
The Judgment Day entered first, Finn Balor and Dominick Mysterio flanking Rhea Ripley. Ripley winked at Balor and gave him a fist bump before leading the group around ringside. She stopped Dominick at the ring post and whispered something in his air. Dominick smiled wide, then posed with her against the apron. Balor stood over them in the ring. The crowd showered them with boos as they paced around the ring.
“You think you know me…” echoed throughout the Bell Centre and the crowd exploded to life. Edge ran from side to side of the sprawling entrance stage, feeding off the frenzied energy of the fans waiting for his signature entrance. Beth Phoenix stood stoically in the center of the stage. Cole noted that it’s been seventeen years since Edge wrestled in Montreal. Graves said he hasn’t lost a step. The crowd sang his theme song back to him, clearly audible well over the arena speakers.
(3) FINN BALOR & RHEA RIPLEY (w/ Dominick Mysterio) vs. EDGE & BETH PHOENIX – Mixed Tag Team match
Edge began the match with Finn Balor. After a quick Irish Whip, Balor caught the veteran with a shoulder tackle. He flexed his arms in front of Beth Phoenix. Finn turned around and ate a tackle from Edge. Edge sent Balor into the corner, then hit him with quick punches to the head. The crowd happily counted along. Edge tagged in Beth Phoenix, necessitating a swap on the heel side. Rhea Ripley stepped in the ring and jawed with Phoenix.
The two women locked up. Rhea hit the ropes and gave Beth a shoulder tackle, but Phoenix barely budged. She and Ripley locked eyes. They began trading hard short-arm clotheslines, neither of them moving much more than an inch. Ripley broke the stalemate with a forearm to the head. Dominick hopped on the apron and whispered something in Ripley’s ear. Phoenix stepped to center and began talking trash again. The crowd opened up a massive “f— you Dominick” chant. Phoenix and Ripley engaged in a test of strength. Ripley broke it with a kick to the stomach. She set up for the Riptide, but Beth easily blocked it.
Phoenix hit the ropes and dropped Rhea with a big clothesline. Rhea rolled to the outside to regroup. Dominick began talking trash, so Beth left the ring to meet him. Dominick led Phoenix right to Ripley, but the Glamazon telegraphed it. She took Ripley down anyway, then tossed her into the ring steps. Ripley rolled back in the ring. Phoenix followed, climbing the turnbuckle. Balor distracted the referee, allowing Dominick to hop onto the apron and trip Beth Phoenix. She fell onto the top turnbuckle. Edge left his post to give chase to Dominick, dropping Balor with a clothesline on the way. Dom made a quick exit up the ramp and disappeared through the curtain. The crowd sang “goodbye” to him.
Rhea and Beth traded blows in the center of the ring. Dominick re-emerged from the back, drawing immense heat and another chant from the crowd. In the ring, Beth caught Rhea with a DDT. She crawled desperately toward Edge. Meanwhile, Finn Balor disappeared under the ring. He re-appeared on the opposite side, just below Edge. Balor ripped Edge to the floor and dropped him, preventing a tag.
Ripley drove Phoenix into the turnbuckle and dragged her to the top turnbuckle. Ripley hooked Beth’s arms, but Phoenix elbowed free atop the precarious corner. Beth chopped Rhea and climbed back up to meet her. She hooked her for a Superplex. “Don’t you do it!” Dominick pleaded from the outside. Phoenix connected with the Superplex, eliciting a big pop from the crowd. The two women were laid out in the center as the match crossed 8:15.
Finn Balor rushed into the ring and pulled Beth Phoenix away from the corner, trying to prevent a tag. While being admonished by the referee, Beth reached her corner anyway, tagging in Edge. Edge dropped Balor with three quick clotheslines. He turned him over into the Edge-ucator. Rhea tried to make the save, but Phoenix speared her. She locked in the hold as well. Ripley and Balor locked arms to prevent one another from tapping out. Dominick hopped on the apron, distracting the referee. Rhea broke free of the hold. Dominick tossed her brass knuckles. Ripley hit Edge in the back of the head with the knuckles. Balor covered Edge. Phoenix was to supposed to make the save, but was late, so Edge kicked out just in time.
Edge and Finn worked each other to the corner, slowly climbing the turnbuckles. Rhea joined the fray and got underneath Edge for a Powerbomb. Beth Phoenix re-emerged opposed them and hooked Balor. The two women delivered tandem Powerbombs to their male opponents. Outside the ring, Dominick retrieved two steel chairs. Rhea dragged Beth to the outside. Mysterio pulled the steel ring steps from their position. Rhea slammed Phoenix’s head against the steel, then set her up for a con-chair-to against the steps. Phoenix slid out of her grasp and tripped her up. Beth hit the Glam-Slam on Ripley on the floor.
Back in the ring, Edge delivered the Edge-cution on Balor. He dove through the middle rope, taking out Dominick Mysterio. Edge pounded the mat, slid in the ring and set up for a Spear. He charged, but Balor caught him with Slingblade. Balor got a running start for a missile dropkick to the corner, but Edge exploded out with a Spear. Phoenix rolled into the ring. Edge hoisted Balor up and he and Beth executed the Shatter Machine for a cover and three count.
WINNERS: Edge & Beth Phoenix in 13:48
(LeClair’s Analysis: I’ve been pretty disenchanted by this program for a while, and I think it should’ve probably ended months ago, With that being said, most of the matches are at least enjoyable, and this was certainly no exception. All four wrestlers worked a strong, fast pace, a good contrast to previous encounters in the Edge/Judgment Day saga. I particularly liked the work between Rhea Ripley and Beth Phoenix, the latter of whom is still a very talented wrestler who can work extremely well with the current crop of female talent. Dominick Mysterio’s involvement was greatly entertaining, and it was fun to listen to the Montreal crowd lay into him repeatedly. I particularly liked his running backstage with Edge in pursuit, only to re-emerge mere seconds later to the crowd’s chagrin. Great heat spot. My hope is that this spells the end of this long feud – Edge and Beth got a definitive, clean victory, and logic should dictate that everyone moves on. My fear is that this just another chapter in the seemingly never-ending story of Judgment Day beating down Edge, only to have him win a match at a major event. Rinse and repeat, over and and over and over and over again.)
-Michael Cole talked up the Elimination Chamber press conference, airing immediately after the conclusion of the event.
-Roman Reigns was shown backstage with Paul Heyman at his side. Heyman said there’s “nothing zany” about Montreal. Reigns sipped on his energy drink and stared blankly ahead.
-The chamber structure lowered into place as Mike Rome explained the rules for the men’s Elimination Chamber match. Austin Theory entered first, taking the northwestern pod. Cole noted that the U.S. title has never been defended in an Elimination Chamber match. Graves said Theory is the “forever” champion. Montez Ford entered next, quickly hyping the crowd. Cole said this is Ford’s opportunity to be a breakout singles star. Graves said he and Cole talk regularly about Ford’s potential. Cole said Angelo Dawkins sent out well wishes to his partner earlier in the day. Ford entered the northeastern pod.
Bronson Reed was out next. The camera filmed him from behind. The crowd reacted very minimally. Cole asked Graves if Reed could be the dark horse in the match. “Yes, absolutely, yes,” Graves said emphatically. Bronson entered the southeastern pod. He stared straight across the ring at Austin Theory, pointing at him, “I’m coming for you!” Damian Priest was out next to a similarly subdued reaction from the crowd. Graves said Priest has done most of the heavy lifting for Judgment Day, proving himself weekly. Austin Theory talked some trash as Priest made his rounds to each pod before stepping into the last open unit, on the southwestern end of the ring.
Johnny Gargano was next out, to a respectable reception. Gargano tried to rile the crowd up as he circled the ring and looked into each pod. Johnny shared a fist bump with Montez Ford through the wall of the plexiglass. “Burn it down!” brought the crowd to their feet. Seth Rollins entered last, dancing onto the stage to a serenade from Montreal. Cole noted that Rollins is the most experienced competitor in the match, though he’s only competed in two previous chamber matches. The crowd continued to sing to Rollins long after his music faded out.
(4) AUSTIN THEORY (c) vs. MONTEZ FORD vs. BRONSON REED vs. DAMIAN PRIEST vs. JOHNNY GARGANO vs. SETH ROLLINS – Elimination Chamber match for WWE United States Championship
Michael Cole noted that this would be the first time Seth Rollins and Johnny Gargano have wrestled each other in any capacity in WWE. The crowd continued to serenade Seth Rollins as the two men circled each other and locked up. They engaged in some quick chain wrestling and takedowns. A big “Johnny Wrestling” chant broke out. The two men stood and separated, soaking in the big reaction from the crowd.
Rollins and Gargano sized each other up, tagging hands and locking up a second time. They traded quick roll throughs. Rollins wound up in position to hit the stomp, but Gargano moved quickly and pulled Rollins into a Sunset roll up for a two count. Rollins lifted Gargano onto the floor of the chamber. Johnny went for his through-the-ropes spear, but Rollins caught him and tried to give him a Pedigree. Gargano gave him a backdrop over the top rope to the chamber floor. The crowd counted down and Austin Theory was released from his pod at 2:55.
Theory quickly clotheslined Rollins back into the ring. He shoved Gargano into the chain link wall of the chamber and dragged his face across the taut steel. Theory entered the ring and worked over Rollins before stepping back outside to toss Johnny Gargano into the plexiglass wall of his pod. Theory taunted the crowd and talked trash. He whipped Rollins into the corner, then gave him a Backbreaker. Gargano tried to get back in the ring, but Theory cut him off. Austin mockingly sang Rollins’ theme song. The crowd booed heavily.
The U.S. Champion walked into a fist from Johnny Gargano, then stumbled back and ate one from Rollins. The two took turns with punches to the face. Theory dropped to a knee as the crowd began to sing again. Theory tried to convince Gargano that the crowd only cares about Seth Rollins. “What about what we had?!” Gargano pretended to buy into it, then quickly punched Theory in the face. Theory bolted from the ring and jumped back in his pod. He closed the door in Gargano’s face. Austin forgot the other side was open. Rollins was waiting for him. Seth dropped Theory, then let Gargano join in. They closed both pod doors and beat Theory senseless.
Damian Priest was released from his pod at 6:35. He went to work on Gargano and Rollins immediately. He hit multiple jumping elbows out of the corner, then a big Broken Arrow on Gargano. Priest ate a quick booth from Rollins. Seth set him up for a Pedigree, but Priest fought free and dropped Rollins. Gargano charged at Priest and took a Flatliner. Priest covered him for a near fall. Damian tried to give Rollins a Chokeslam, but Seth flipped through it. Priest hit him with a Killswitch and covered for another near fall. Austin Theory grabbed Priest’s attention, proposing an alliance. Priest kicked him in the face, then leapt over the top rope and onto the U.S. Champion.
Seth Rollins and Damian Priest battled against the ropes. Priest caught Seth with a big kick to the head. Gargano kicked Priest in the head. Austin Theory dove off the top rope and caught Gargano with a missile Dropkick. Priest kicked Theory in the face. Seth Rollins returned and caught Priest with a rolling Suplex into the Falcon Arrow for a cover and near fall. The crowd counted down as another pod was unlocked. It was Bronson Reed’s.
Reed stood face-to-face with Seth Rollins. Seth fired first, but Reed shrugged him off. He pulled Johnny Gargano into his orbit and slammed both men simultaneously. Reed worked Rollins and Gargano into the corner. He chopped Johnny, then hoisted Rollins onto his shoulders. He pulled Johnny on top of Rollins and gave them both a fall-away slam. He covered Rollins for a two count. Cole noted that there’s been no eliminations, now at the 11:45 mark.
Priest and Reed began to trade right hands. The two spilled to the chamber floor. Priest went for a leaping kick off the middle rope, but Reed caught him by the waist and gave him a German Suplex right into the wall of the chamber. Priest pulled himself to his feet, balancing against a pod wall. Reed tackled him into it. On the other side of the pod, Austin Theory pulled himself up. Bronson Reed climbed the turnbuckle and dove onto Theory.
Montez Ford was released into the match at 13:15. He jumped Bronson Reed, tackling him into the chamber wall. Ford gave multiple crotch chops. He climbed into the ring and took down Theory. Ford mimed The Rock’s People’s Elbow set up. He began to run the ropes, but Reed cut him off with a body tackle. Austin Theory scooped Bronson Reed into the air, setting up for A-Town Down. He Reed slid down the back and hit Theory with a Powerslam.
Gargano kicked Reed in the head. Bronson dropped to a knee. Gargano climbed his shoulders. Seth Rollins leapt off the top rope, clotheslining Gargano. Johnny held on, delivering a reverse ‘rana to Reed. Montez Ford ran in to cover Reed, but the big man kicked out at two. Ford was the first man to return to his feet. He hit the ropes and dove to the outside, trying to catch Damian Priest. Priest caught him by the throat and slammed him into the chamber wall. Priest scooped Ford into a Jackknife, but Ford held onto the chain wall and began to climb. Ford reached the roof of the chamber as the other five men in the match congregated below. Ford hung upside down off the roof and fell onto the waiting wrestlers below.
All six men rolled about the ring and the chamber floor. Cole noted that there’s still been no eliminations. The match ticked past 17:30. Seth Rollins and Montez Ford delivered tandem Superkicks to Bronson Reed. Reed didn’t fall. Johnny Gargano joined in. Triple kicks barely moved him. Gargano leapt into the ropes and hit his Spike DDT. Bronson rolled into position for a Stomp from Rollins. Montez Ford flew off the top with a frog splash for a cover and three count to eliminate Reed at 18:00.
The five remaining men traded blows in the ring. Gargano and Rollins worked Priest into the corner. Austin Theory pulled Rollins away and to the outside. He tried to slingshot Seth into the chamber wall, but Seth scaled the cage. Theory gave chase. On the other side, Johnny Gargano climbed to escape the clutches of Damian Priest. Rollins kicked Theory to the floor. Rollins and Garbano were seated on opposite sides of the roof of the same pod. The sat back against the glass and nodded toward each other in a sign of respect. Rollins gave Theory a hard chop. He lifted Johnny to his feet and drove him repeatedly into the plexiglass wall. Rollins lifted Gargano into Powerbomb position. He looked poised to drop him off the pod, but Gargano countered it into a Hurricanrana. Rollins went crashing into the other three wrestlers positioned below the pod.
Everyone was laid out. A big “this is awesome” chant rang out. Gargano and Priest crawled to their feet at 21:50. Johnny caught Priest with a kick to the face. He used the chamber wall to connect with a Tornado DDT. Theory charged at him, but Gargano kicked the champion in the face. Ford flew onto the screen and ate a kick, too. Gargano returned to the ring to reach Theory again. He hit a spike DDT over the top rope to the adjacent floor section of the chamber. Gargano got pulled back into the ring by Damian Priest. Priest hit the Razor’s Edge for a cover and three count, eliminating Gargano at 23:05.
Damian Priest taunted the crowd as he celebrated eliminating Gargano. He dropped wrestlers as they tried to return to the ring. Seth Rollins ate a couple of hard shots. Ford took a boot to the face. Priest caught Seth with multiple kicks to the body. Seth caught a leg and the two began trading rights. Rollins broke the stalemate by pulling Priest in for a Pedigree. Priest blocked it. Montez Ford returned, but Preist saw him poised on the top rope. He grabbed Montez by the throat. Rollins returned and pulled Priest into Powerbomb position. Ford leapt from the top rope, connecting with a Blockbuster. Ford covered Priest for a three count just before the 25:00 mark.
The camera zoomed in on an exhausted Montez Ford, downed in the corner. Cole reset the scene – only Theory, Rollins, and Ford remained. Ford and Rollins stood first, coming face-to-face. Ford led the crowd into another rendition of Rollins’ song. Seth smiled. The two came to blows. Rollins caught Montez with a hard right forearm. He went for the ripcord elbow, but Ford blocked it. Seth went for a backdrop. Ford flipped out of it. Rollins spilled to the floor. Ford hit the ropes and dove onto Theory. He returned to the ring and dove onto Rollins on the opposite side. He retrieved Theory and tossed him into Rollins, then dove on both of them.
Montez tossed Austin Theory back in the ring. He gave him a Rock Bottom, then climbed to the top rope. Ford went for a frog splash, but Theory got his knees up. Ford flipped and bounced into the bottom rope. Rollins was waiting with a stomp on the chamber floor. Theory pulled Ford back in the ring and covered him a three count just before 28:00. Rollins and Theory did battle while the referee checked on Montez Ford. The official called for help for Ford. Several trainers and referees spilled from the back and helped Montez Ford to his feet. Rollins and Theory laid out while the crowd cheered Ford.A “Montez” chant broke out as he tried to climb out of the ring. Ford collapsed at the edge of the chamber. The camera cut away.
Seth went for a stomp. Theory blocked it. He scooped Rollins up for A-Town Down. Rollins slid free. He caught Theory with a Pedigree and set up in the corner for a stomp. Suddenly, Logan Paul rushed into the ring. He flipped over the top rope and gave Rollins an impressive Buckshot Lariat. Paul left the ring and closed the door behind him. He watched as Austin Theory hit A-Town Down and covered Rollins for a three count.
WINNER: Austin Theory in 31:28 to retain the United States Championship
(LeClair’s Analysis: This was really high on the list of modern Elimination Chamber matches. The action was non-stop from the jump, and the crowd seemed fully invested from start to finish, even with the wrestlers they weren’t particularly enamored with during the entrances. I thought all six wrestlers had individualized moments to stand out and make their presence felt. Johnny Gargano had a particularly impressive night after seemingly falling out of favor in recent weeks. The crowd was very much into his exchanges with Seth Rollins in the early going, and later when they were positioned atop one of the pods, sharing a brief moment of respect. The Powerbomb-into-Hurricanrana spot was one of the highlights of the match. Bronson Reed had some great big man spots, furthering my belief that continued exposure to his style and ability should garner some positive improvements in his standing with the audience. Montez Ford had a breakout night, securing two pins during the course of the match and being heavily featured as an up-and-coming underdog. The fans bought into him in that role, and it felt genuine and sustainable. His spot from the roof of the chamber was incredible. You’d think it should’ve come off as slow-developing and over-choreographed, but Ford is so athletic and in control of his body and movements that he was able to get into position with incredible pace to make the spot seem natural. I thought the worked injury following his elimination also built additional sympathy for him going forward. I wasn’t a fan of it being used as a way to sneak Logan Paul into the chamber, though. What if Paul had flown all the way to Montreal, and Ford hadn’t been hurt? Would he have just not interfered, finding not other suitable way into the cage? It just felt a tad bit too contrived for my liking. The closing sequence was curious. Montez Ford’s “injury” was clearly set up as a way to ensure the chamber door was open for Logan Paul to interfere. The problem, I think, was that they lingered on it for so long that the crowd started to believe it was legitimate. A hush fell over them, even as the action started to pick up again. I understand the logic here – they wanted to make the chamber door being open feel as natural and necessary as possible. Still, it begs the question, what would Paul have done had that moment not occurred?
Besides that small gripe, I thought this match achieved everything it set out to do and then some. Rollins and Paul are now a virtual lock for WrestleMania. Theory’s reign continues, albeit under more cheap means. All six men in the match came out for the better, something you can rarely say about multi-person gimmick affairs.)
-A WrestleMania promo aired. The event is now 42 days away. Michael Cole and Corey Graves pondered who would be the Undisputed Universal Champion by then. Cole tossed to a video package for the main event.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: You’ll undoubtedly notice my coverage of the main event is missing. After going to publish my finalized document, a brief lapse in my Internet service led to the most recent draft being completely lost. Despite my best attempts to recover it on the back end, it appears to be lost. I’ve included by re-articulated thoughts on the match (to the best of my ability), as well as some closing thoughts on the event, below.
(5) ROMAN REIGNS (c, w/ Paul Heyman) vs. SAMI ZAYN – WWE Undisputed Universal Championship match
WINNER: Roman Reigns in 32:19 to retain the WWE Undisputed Universal Championship
(LeClair’s Analysis: Despite WWE’s best efforts to plant seeds of doubt, and maybe our own willingness to convince ourselves of the possibility, I think we all knew the outcome going in. I think Montreal did, too, despite undoubtedly, and understandingly getting wrapped up in the drama and emotion of it all. The heart so defiantly says “well, maybe they’re just going to do it,” but the brain knows otherwise. The atmosphere was truly incredible. Sami Zayn, the scrappy underdog, fought valiantly and took the crowd on a journey for multiple nearest of near fall moments. Roman Reigns, the brash and meritless heel, was downright nasty. I loved the interaction between he and Sami’s wife, the way he told her it was Sami’s fault. The disgust he showed as he told her that he didn’t want it to be this way, that he wanted Sami to be “part of the family.” Reigns body language and words were crucial to the story, and as always, he used them to great benefit.
I thought the Usos late appearances in the match made for an unpredictable wrinkle. I’d assumed they wouldn’t be in Montreal, both for the storyline reasons they’d set forth, and because of prior real-life issues. Jimmy’s involvement seemed to predict the end, but WWE was wise to have it lead into an even bigger Sami comeback attempt. I loved the initial actions by Jey Uso. I thought it was masterful to place he and Reigns in the exact same situation, placement and all, that Sami Zayn found himself in last month at Royal Rumble. Jey’s indecisiveness felt relatable. It’s as though he came to Montreal with a clear vision in mind, only to be thrown entirely off track by staring his manipulative partner in the face. Jey hesitated just long enough for the action to play out differently, leading to the finishing sequence with Sami accidentally hitting Jey. Thought I think I’d prefer the opposite scenario, both lay a clear path forward for the next chapter in the story.
WWE certainly opted to play with fire by focusing so intently on crowd reactions after the bell. I get the desire to capture raw emotion in the moment, but the disappointment and deflation was palpable. Looking from one face to the next, reactions seemed to range from disappointment, to downright disgust in a meta sense that the promotion wouldn’t deliver the result they wanted. KO’s return salvaged what felt like growing discontent, and I think it was smart to feature him the way they did. I said coming in that the only way to truly get away with Zayn losing in Montreal with minimal repercussions was to firmly establish what Sami would do at WrestleMania. They didn’t take it quite that far, but the respectful glare between he and KO set the stage nicely and should allow them to pivot well.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: WWE came into the night knowing that they wouldn’t being the crowd what they wanted. They worked incredibly hard to subvert any inclination to heap legitimate heat on the promotion, and instead direct the fan’s emotion and energy to canon story development. I not only applaud the effort, but think they largely succeeded in their goal. Aside from the Lesnar vs. Lashley debacle, the matches were of strong quality, useful for advancing stories for WrestleMania, emotionally heightened, or some combination of all three. Elimination Chamber has often like a throwaway B-level event used to bridge a gap between two major shows. WWE not only used the location of the event as a means to strengthen its importance and appeal. but they built a show that lent itself to garnering reactions we rarely get to experience in this day and age. An easy thumbs up.